Add a musical score to Oscar Wilde’s classic novel The Picture of Dorian Gray and you find yourself with Dorian: A Rock Musical.
Presented by Ruby in the Dust and available now on stream.theatre, this production went through some recasting with Bart Lambert now playing the (anti)hero. He is ably supported by John Addison as the louche Henry who curiously has a wife in this version), Fia Houston-Hamilton as Sibyl Vane, and Lewis Vae as doting painter Basil.
Linnie Reedman writes and directs, with music and lyrics by Joe Evans. Although promoted as ‘glam rock’, the style is more Berlin cabaret in places, and when set aside other versions of the tale streamed recently, it does not add a great deal in terms of textual innovation.
The cruelty, melodrama, and homoeroticism of the original story is all present, but some additions are less effective: Lady Henry’s drunken stupor, the face of the devil. As a musical, this is full of songs which are loaded with character and the lines they might say, but the sense of Wilde’s complex plot is somewhat lost.
A ten year gap moves the story forward, but it is not always obvious that we are in modern times, in the world of rock stars who destroy themselves with heroin rather than opium, a clubland in which deviants and demigods frolic together with depressive dirges. The club is called “Club 27” which of course is a reference to the number of performers who lose their lives at that age.
Reedman’s direction is sometimes inspired, giving a sense of the grubby underbelly of fame, but it a little static in the earlier scenes around the creation of the portrait. I wanted a bit more of the Gothic rather than the grunge, more of the green carnation than the faded rose.
You can now stream Dorian: A Rock Musical on stream.theatre, until 12 August – book tickets here.